If you would have had a conversation with me 1.5 year ago, and told me that I am going to run a marathon one day, I would have probably just start laughing. Running was not on my mind at all. 5km would have been a real struggle at the time, not to mention 42km. I was fit, always up to something, but more focused on hiking and cycling. I thought my joints, especially knees, were too weak for me to run, and I will only make them worse – which I thought was proven by a knee injury caused by (incorrect) running on a treadmill few years back.
Date: 9 September 2018
Location: Wrocław, Poland
Temperature: 25C degrees
36.PKO Wrocław Marathon
Distance: 42,195 m
Marathons completed: #1
I didn’t know decreasing the training volume, and transition into tapering 2 weeks before the marathon will be so difficult. I wasn’t ready for it. My mood swings were worse than around periods, energy was down, and I was only wishing to go for an intense crossfit training or a fast run. But I knew I shouldn’t, and this time I listened.
I think it is also important to be ready for whatever comes on a marathon day. I knew my training wasn’t enough due to injury struggles, and I didn’t feel 100% on the day. I knew I will not break 4:30:00, the time I imagined would be my goal, an easy goal for my first marathon. I knew the chances I will get it with the current state of my joints are very low but I was hoping that maybe? Just maybe? I finished with 5:00:31 time and I think I should’ve prepared myself more for this. I was disappointed. Happy and disappointed. But how can you really prepare for something like this?
My usual diet is quite healthy (with occasional cake and pizza) so I didn’t really change much. I don’t smoke and I go through most of the weeks(sometimes months) without alcohol at all. I do like a glass of wine (or bottle) with friends every now and then though.
The day before a marathon I listened to more experienced runners and I had porridge for breakfast, nice pasta lunch/dinner plus some snacks (crisps and fruits). I didn’t experiment with food, didn’t go for anything new. I wanted my belly to feel good.
On the marathon morning I had porridge with dates, apples and nuts, about 2h before the race. 30 minutes before the start I had a small bar with almonds and dates. Really tiny one.
I took with me 2 energy gels without caffeine and 3 caffeine bullet candies. Marathon course had a lot of water and food stations with bananas, isotonics, water and sugar cubes. I had a piece of a banana twice and several sugar cubes.
If I remember correctly I took my first gel on 20th kilometre and second one about 30th kilometre, then took one caffeine bullet on each 32, 36 and 40km. It all felt well in my belly at the beginning but because of the combination of isotonics/sugar cubes/gels/caffeine candies I had a feeling like I’ve drank some rocket fuel and i lasted in my mouth for some time. Wasn’t nice. Fortunately the sensation started at the end of the course. I started feeling like I want to vomit around 39th kilometre, just before I spotted a runner vomiting on the side of the road. It didn’t help me but I thought I don’t have much in my belly anyway so I better keep going.
After the finish line every marathoner was given a recovery meal. I wasn’t hungry at all so I went straight to the exit and ate few hours later.
Two weeks before my marathon I had my longest run, 30km. The pain I got in my legs from 28th km was something new, unbearable, a real nightmare that nearly made me cry. I didn’t have that pain at all during the whole course of 42km. There was something else, something I was really worried about. My injured ankles.
It started mid May, after I increased my weekly mileage from 25km a week to 50km(there’s a reason they say you should not increase your mileage more than 10% a week, and I was about to find out that “they” were right). Tendon in my left ankle didn’t take the km increase well. I rested it for 3 weeks and then topped it with trampolining when I thought it was ok. That started a series of visits with physio, I couldn’t walk not to mention run.
Physio helped me with treatments, advised on exercises and how to continue training. I found a specialist that is also a runner and will understand that I will not stop at this point. I knew I have to and will keep training, marathon was coming. So he did everything he could to make it happen. It was tricky because I never had enough time to allow my ankle rest and because of compensation my other ankle started getting worse.
The pain came with 5th kilometre on the marathon day. I thought the race is over. It was my right ankle. It was a very strong, pulling on the tendon in the inside part of my ankle. After few km nothing was changing and the pain was slowly increasing. I started thinking. I’ve done so much, if there really would be something serious with it the pain would be even higher. Right? Especially that I was getting sort of phantom pains when I wasn’t doing anything few days before the race. I decided to turn my focus into surroundings. Trick myself and forget the pain (it’s not so easy when it really hurts). And you know what? It worked! If was running pain free (ish) from about 15th kilometre. I still was able to feel the discomfort in my tendons and that they are not fully ok but the sharp pain was gone. I won!
Here comes the worst. I think it hit me a little bit after I’ve passed a half marathon mark. I had less energy and my legs started going slower. Up until this point I was easily keeping the pace that would allow me to finish around 4:20 time. It felt like I couldn’t go any faster. I was anxiously checking my pace on the watch every 30 seconds, and I saw it dropping. I got scared, what if I won’t finish? I’m only half way and my legs don’t want to keep the pace any more…
I think the worst came between 25th and 30th kilometre. I knew I can finish. It was just a struggle when you realise how much is left to go. When you hit 32nd kilometre it all changes. It’s only 10km left! You are tired but you have gone that far there’s no coming back and you know you can do it!
What they don’t tell you and what you should do
Get your name printed on your race day t-shirt. Seriously. It really adds a lot of power when people shout your name and cheer you up! There were so many times I thought I can’t go faster, was slowing down, and then I heard: “Come on Agata! You can do it! You look great!”, my legs automatically would speed up. Magic.
Put a sun cream on. As simple as this is, with the whole marathon madness, you can forget the basic things you would normally do before going out for a few hours run. I remembered and still got tanned (I thought I’m just dirty at the beginning). I saw a lot of people finishing with a little bit of sunburn(depending how white/pale you start). I put SPF 30 on. Should have been 50.
Set yourself goals and rules. On top of obvious goals for finishing times or what in general you want to achieve in your race (bronze, silver, gold) set yourself little, tiny goals. There were moments, especially after water station points, that I would walk a little bit(only after 22nd km, before that I wasn’t stopping at all), setting a goal that next to that tree over there I will start running again. But the rule was, if someone will shout my name before I reached the tree I’d have to start running earlier.
I also had a goal to speed up/sprint for the last 2km before the finish line (what felt like a sprint then is not really a sprint in a real life;)). I did it, but when I checked my records it wasn’t 2km but nearly 1.5km, good enough because I ran past around 30 people that were ahead of me. Felt amazing.
Kalenji trail running shorts (they have tiny pockets at the front and back where I put the candies in)
ZeroPoint compression socks
NB Running Shoes
Caterpy Laces (so you don’t have to worry about stopping and fixing your laces while running)
Sweaty Betty Ultra Run bra (the best running bra I ever had, I have 5 of the same model)
No name racing vest (with my name on it)
Garmin Forerunner 935
Goodr sunglasses (no bouncing while running)
It was a very special race because of few reasons, first of all, it was my first (you always remember your first time), second of all it happened in my hometown (Wrocław), third: this year it a 100 anniversary of Polish independence! I can’t think of a better combination.
The vibe was good, there were a lot of kids waiting for you to give them a high-five (which I did many times!). There was even one place where kids made something like a box on a stick/hammer (THOR’s HAMMER!) you can hit while running to gain energy (I obviously did that) not scientifically proven but I can tell you it helped!
I thought I would feel more tired the day after the race than I felt. I didn’t get any muscle pain, could only feel my joints. Can walk the stairs normally. I could only feel the overall tiredness of my body. The only reason for this I can think of is my cross training, crossfit, which made my muscles strong enough to take it and don’t be sore after 42km of running! I recommend it, lots of fun, especially if you have a little bit of a competitive nature.
I love my marathon medal with a polish flag and a little dwarf (unofficial symbol of my town). I am happy I did it.
Already signed up for a next marathon in 3 months.